Planning for your son/daughter's bar/bat mitzvah? This easy guide will help you learn about all of the different programs, venues for the ceremony and party, and ways to help make your event more environmentally friendly.
 
Not everyone views b'nai mitzvah the same, and that's the beauty of this important milestone -- not just for the student but for the whole family. We come to this rite-of-passage with different levels of knowledge and different relationships with our Judaism. Many of the b'nai mitzvah programs in Boulder County are highly customizable to meet the needs of you and your teen. There is really something for everyone. Limitless choices... one community.

BETH AMI- CO CONGREGATION FOR HUMANISTIC JUDAISM

Each Bar or Bat Mitzvah student works closely with a mentor to explore his/her values as well as connections with Humanistic Judaism at Beth Ami and at home. Each student's values will guide the choice of a Torah portion, a mitzvah project and a Jewish hero. The Bar/Bat Mitzvah service is designed to celebrate the growing maturity and independence of the student. Families work with one of our Professional Madrikhot to design a ceremony that is meaningful to them and consistent with the values and traditions of Humanistic Judaism and Beth Ami.

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CONGREGATION BONAI SHALOM – TRADITIONAL EGALITARIAN

Bar/Bat Mitzvah is an important bridge to meaningful adult Jewish engagement for the child and for the whole family. At Bonai Shalom, becoming a Bar/Bat Mitzvah reflects each child's uniqueness. This is neither a competition nor a performance, but an important rite of passage.

Students who are preparing to become Bar/Bat Mitzvah are part of the B'nai Mitzvah class in the Religious School. The purpose of the class is to build a supportive community of the students, as well as their families, as they study and prepare together. To this end, there are additional student and family activities aimed at strengthening this community.

We offer each family several options as a way to ensure that the experience is meaningful for each student and their families. Elements of the basic program include:

  • Students attend classes in religious school two times a week – Shabbat morning and Wednesday afternoons for Torah study with topics aimed at preparing them to become knowledgeable adults in the Jewish community.
  • Additional activities include a 4-day camping trip in Rocky Mountain National Park, a dinner in the sukkah for the B'nai Mitzvah class families, a family Shabbat dinner, class social action projects, and an end of year rafting trip. The Rabbi leads and participates in these.
  • Students each complete their own personally meaningful tikun olam project.
  • Students work with a B'nai Mitzvah tutor on their Torah and haftarah readings. We help families find someone who will work well with their child's strengths.
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CONGREGATION HAR HASHEM – REFORM

B'nai mitzvah is an important milestone in a family and young person's life. It is in the public ritual of bar or bat mitzvah that a child expresses how their learning and experiences have shaped the young Jew that they are becoming. As we prepare our young people for this transition, we are guided by a vision of Jewish life that is inspiring, informed by knowledge of the Jewish tradition, responsible to individual needs and enriched by the months of community. As we seek to instill in our students a deep and profound connection to the Jewish tradition and the Jewish people, we hope to:

  • Inspire young people by helping them find a meaningful connection to Jewish spirituality, tradition and ritual.
  • Guide young people to use Jewish values, rooted in Torah, to make significant decisions in their lives.
  • Transmit to young people significant knowledge of the Jewish spiritual tradition and Jewish sacred texts.
  • Foster each young person's discovery of his/her unique path for engaging with and expressing Jewish ideas and teachings.
  • Help parents to deepen their own knowledge and practice of Judaism.
  • Generate connections and community amongst both students and parents.
  • Formally extend the Jewish learning journey beyond the bar and bat mitzvah year.

Har HaShem is on a journey to holistically rethink the education, preparation and ritual of b'nai mitzvah and beyond. As a pilot congregation in the URJ's B'nai Mitzvah Revolution, we are, guided by the above statements, working to revolutionize our approach to b'nai mitzvah to one in which the ritual emerges from the student's learning rather than being guided by a list of prayers to master. We want our young people to have an experience with prayer, God wrestling and tikkun olam and for those experiences to guide a coming-of-age ritual in which the young person teaches his or her community about how Judaism can be a meaningful guide to their life.

*Har HaShem also highly values the diverse learning needs of our students and works with students' strengths to design a ritual that will enable them to shine. We have a learning specialist dedicated to work with these students to craft the right process to help them fulfill their own potential.

There are several different paths to preparing for b'nai mitzvah at Har HaShem. All the paths enable families to individualize their experience while celebrating together as part of a community that lasts beyond the ritual moment. Our families can choose from a combination of learning programs. We want our students to express a competency in both Hebrew and Judaica by participating in family school or our Sunday morning program and Hebrew School or our individualized program.

  • Family School: a once a month Saturday afternoon community-oriented program in which families learn, worship, eat and have fun together. There is an additional once a month component for 6th-8th grade students who begin to take on leadership positions within the program as they consider the ways in which Judaism is meaningful, relevant and able to answer the questions they confront as young teens.
  • Sunday Religious School: a weekly Sunday morning experience in which students regularly pray, celebrate, learn Hebrew, delve into the texts and heroes of our tradition, and build a community of that recognizes that we are all b'tzelem elohim, created in the image of God. Our students use these resources to annually develop a project that enables them to apply the learning and values of Judaism to an issue of importance to them. As they progress through our program, our students develop a portfolio of their learning journey, including b'nai mitzvah, on which they reflect as they become post b'nai mitzvah. Our 6th-8th grade curriculum focuses on prayer, God wrestling (including examining our ideas of God that emerge from Torah and contemporary texts) and tikkun olam. These students all attend an annual retreat.
  • Hebrew School: for families interested in focusing on Hebrew for prayer, we offer a traditional four-year Hebrew program.
  • Individualized Hebrew learning plan: Families, in consultation with the Director of Lifelong Learning, discuss their family and child's goals for Hebrew learning, including, but not limited to, prayer competency, modern Hebrew, Torah trope, home ritual skills and holiday blessings. These goals are accomplished through individualized tutoring and monthly worship service attendance. Families may tutor for as many as four years and as few as a year and a half prior to b'nai mitzvah, determined by their goals.
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KEHILLAT OROT YISRAEL – ORTHODOX

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NEVEI KODESH – JEWISH RENEWAL COMMUNITY OF BOULDER

We view Bnai Mitzva as a rite of passage, as a young adult begins to find their own voice and personal connections with Torah, Judaism and service to the community.

We emphasize strong individual connections between the student and the rabbi, as they work together to craft a unique spiritual prayer service, delve deeply into the meanings of the student's Torah portion, and inquire into each student's personal goals, motivations and ethical concerns.

Thanks to a Hazon mini-grant, we are currently in an exciting process of developing our bnai mitzva rites of passage, potentially crafting a "graduating class" experience where the 8th grade will receive training to work together on a social justice project in the wider community. Watch this space…

We celebrate our Bat/Bar Mitzva's coming of age through a joyous, musical, participatory Shabbat morning service, where the young person is called to the Torah in recognition of their attainment of the status as a Jewish adult.

In addition to the formal "aliyah" – calling up – our bnai mitzva generally

  • chant at least one passage from their Torah portion, direct from the Torah scroll
  • chant their Haftarah in a fusion of Hebrew and English
  • deliver a teaching – dvar Torah – reflecting on the themes of their Torah portion, and their experience in becoming bnai mitzva, to the congregation
  • assist the rabbi in leading the community in prayer, both through leading certain passages of the liturgy, as well as by offering explanations of various prayers at key moments during the service

Accommodations are, of course, available in the case of special educational needs. In order to prepare our students for this achievement, we provide and require the following:

  • Two years (6th and 7th grade) of Crossing the River classes, 6:30-8:00pm Mondays at Nevei Kodesh.
  • Personalized study of prayers, Torah and Haftarah portions, one on one with a skilled adult. These tutoring sessions equip the students to understand the English meanings and functions of each text, as well as to chant them in Hebrew.
  • Several in-depth meetings with a "Torah coach," helping the student explore their Torah portion and its traditional rabbinic commentaries, and mentoring them in writing their dvar Torah, the teaching about their Torah portion delivered to the congregation at their Shabbat morning service.
  • Several personal meetings with the rabbi, deepening relationship and providing an opportunity for students to investigate their own questions about Judaism, society and their own lives.
  • At these meetings, the student and rabbi also work on bringing all of the elements of their training into focus and synthesis, understanding the energetic flow of a traditional Jewish prayer service, and crafting a unique prayer experience for the community.
  • Attendance of, and reflection upon, at least 6 Shabbat morning services during the 6th-7th grade period.
  • Rehearsals with the rabbi and musical leader(s).
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ADVENTURE RABBI – SYNAGOGUE WITHOUT WALLS

Our Bar and Bat Mitzvah program is radically different than anything you have encountered. We use Judaism and nature to teach bar and bat mitzvah students the skills they will need to be content, compassionate, confident and responsible teenagers. We have three very different programs, but they all share two goals:

  • For the Bar or Bat mitzvah students to love being Jewish
  • For your family to discover that Judaism is meaningful, relevant, and accessible

Our programs are:

  • Individual Study – a 10 month program for students who do not like hiking or outdoor activities who are too busy for set class times and who have any level of Jewish background. The program is coordinated by our Distance Learning Specialist, Rabbi Evon Yakar. You will have individual monthly meetings with Rabbi Evon Yakar via skype and weekly meetings with a Hebrew tutor. You will learn Hebrew prayers, chant Torah, do a social action project, complete a Shabbat project, write a D'var Torah and learn why all of this is meaningful. Then you will have a ceremony in front of your family and friends on the date and at the venue of your choosing.
  • Adventure Class – a 10 month class for students who love the outdoors, enjoy a group experience and who have any level of Jewish background. The class meets with Rabbi Korngold and Jeff Findelstein approximately 14 times from August to May and once a week with a Hebrew tutor of your choosing. We address topics kids should learn in life and teach them through a Jewish lens. We talk about the daunting choices that our students will face in the turbulent teenage years ahead. We talk about making good choices and giving those choices a voice. Students are responsible for 2 homework assignments each month.
  • Bar or Bat Yisrael – a 12 week program (25-30 total hours) for students who have limited time, do not want to learn Hebrew and for students who are just beginning to explore Judaism. The goals of this program are for students to have a Jewish Coming-of-Age ceremony, a connection to Jewish heritage, an opportunity to celebrate with friends and family, and general continuity. This is an ideal program for families who like the concept of bar or bat mitzvah but just don't see how learning Hebrew will help their son or daughter be better equipped to deal with the world. The program has three elements plus seven meetings with Rabbi Evon Yakar. These culminate in a private ceremony at the venue of your choice.
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JUDAISM YOUR WAY – OPEN TENT B'NAI MITZVAH

Little can match a Bar/Bat Mitzvah in terms of meaning, effort and energy for a young person and his/her family. And for good reason: Bar/Bat Mitzvah is a Jewish celebration of a young person's coming of age – emotionally, intellectually, physically and spiritually. It is a time when a young person gets support to ask him/herself: Who am I? What's important to me? Where do I come from? What are my gifts? To whom am I accountable?

For parents, it is a time of great pride and poignancy. Their child is no longer just a child. Their relationship is evolving, and matters of authority, autonomy, responsibility and privilege will be negotiated over and over again. It's a time when parents get to ask themselves: Of the legacies from my past, what do I want to pass on to my child? What does he need to know about where he comes? How do I want her to take her place in the world? Into what kind of adult do I want to guide my child to grow?

And for extended family and community, Bar/Bat Mitzvah is a celebration of continuity, when a young person claims for themselves the Jewish identity that, to this point, they have received from their parents and their community.

Judaism Your Way's offers an Open Tent B'nai Mitzvah program for young people ages 12 and up. The program consists of two parts:

  • a year-long class
  • a choice of 5 paths to prepare for and celebrate the Bar/Bat Mitzvah

The class is a "Judaism 101" for 12 and 13 year olds: history/peoplehood, spirituality, holidays and practices. For students with little formal Jewish educational background, it serves as a comprehensive introduction. For students with more substantial Jewish background, it revisits what they have previously learned on a new and more sophisticated, age-appropriate level.supports five different ways or tracks for the student to celebrate their Jewish coming of age.

For B'nai Mitzvah ceremony preparation, Open Tent supports five different ways or tracks for the student to celebrate their Jewish coming of age.

  • Traditional service: The student develops skills to be a participant/leader of a service and to read from the Torah.
  • Four Worlds: Based on this Kabbalistic model, the young person explores aspects of their physical, emotional, spiritual and intellectual selves. A service is developed that builds upon the themes that get identified in this exploration. In this way the service grows out of the individuality of the young person, not something external that s/he needs to learn.
  • Research project: The student explores in depth a topic or theme within Jewish peoplehood and makes a presentation based on it. This option may fit for families that have a more secular or cultural orientation to Judaism.
  • 13 Challenges activity model: The student completes 13 accomplishments from a variety of life and skill areas that demonstrate their mastery and commitment to their community, their family and themselves.
  • Storahtelling Maven method: In this track, the student learns an engaging way to think about and translate Torah verses. Students can create their own contemporary translation of Torah verses and incorporate elements of stagecraft that prompt a meaningful and lively conversation with participants at their B'nai Mitzvah.
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HAZON – MITZVAH PROJECT ASSISTANCE

Hazon offers customized, one-on-one mentoring and support for b'nai mitzvah students interested in doing a project on Jewish outdoor, Jewish food, or Jewish environmental issues. Please contact Hazon@colorado.org at least three months before your ceremony, though ideally 6+ months out, to discuss your interests.